Posts Tagged 'interdisciplinary'

The Art of Astronomy

Nicolaus Copernicus was a cleric, a physician, a mathematician—a real renaissance man. Literally. But the true passion that drove him was astronomy. Throughout his life, he took every opportunity to observe the sky and the stars, making meticulous calculations of their positions at a time before the telescope had even been invented. With this detailed data, Copernicus formulated a new theory placing the sun at the center of the universe—an idea that helped to ignite the Scientific Revolution.

Like Copernicus, the Maya were astronomically-minded. Without the benefit of telescopes and other modern advances, they built monumental structures at sites like Chichén Itzá in perfect alignment with the sun during important days of equinox and solstice. Their calendars were also based on the movements of the sun and moon. Their myths and rituals share this cosmological focus, which permeated their entire culture. Even their artworks reflect their celestial mindset.

Eccentric flint depicting a crocodile canoe with passengers, Mexico or Guatemala, southern Maya lowlands, Maya, c. A.D. 600-900, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., in honor of Mrs. Alex Spence.

This flint, shaped like a crocodile canoe carrying its passengers in profile, captures a scene from the Maya creation story. The Maya believed the soul of the First Father was paddled in just such a canoe to the underworld, after which he was reborn as the Maize God, the ancestor of all humans. Contemporary archaeologists have dated this event to August 13, 3114 B.C., based on the Maya calendar. This event was reflected in the heavens each year on August 13, when the Milky Way could be seen floating across the sky from east to west until midnight, when it shifted downward, north to south, plunging into the underworld.

Lidded tetrapod bowl with paddler and peccaries, Mexico or Guatemala, southern Maya lowlands, Maya, c. A.D. 250-550, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund.

Atop this lidded bowl sits the Maya sun god, Kinich Ahau, also in a canoe. As he paddles through the underworld each night, his path takes him through the constellations, one of which is represented by the pig-like mammals incised into the bowl’s legs.

Next Monday, October 24, Arts & Letters Live will welcome author Dava Sobel, whose new book A More Perfect Heaven recounts the revolutionary life and work of Nicolaus Copernicus. Had he been around to observe the skies of ancient America with the Maya, I think they might have found some common ground.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

A New Chapter

After nine years of teaching with and writing about works of art at the Dallas Museum of Art, this is my last blog post as Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers. I am beginning the next chapter of my life and am moving eastward to continue my career within the museum field.  While at the DMA, I have grown and matured as an individual and as an educator, developing a stronger sense of self and a more refined teaching philosophy. I have been able to follow my true passion of making interdisciplinary and thematic connections between works of art and cultures using the Museum’s encyclopedic collection and through special exhibitions.

As for my friends and colleagues at the Museum, I have been very fortunate to work with individuals who are extraordinarily passionate about teaching with works of art and care deeply about the Museum and its collection.  This is inspiring on many levels and allows for a creative environment to work in.

And finally, a heartfelt “thank you” to all of the educators I have worked with during teacher workshops, in-services, and partnership programs.  I appreciate the work you do as you support the in-depth learning that is possible with works of art from all places and all times.

As a parting thought, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”  I encourage you all to live the life you imagined.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

P.S.   I can’t help lovin’ that emaciated cow of mine!


Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt, 1979.28

Alexandre Hogue, Drouth Stricken Area, 1934, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1945.6

Richard Long, Tennessee Stone Ring, 1984, Stone, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund with a matching grant from The 500, Inc., 1985.120

Just can't get enough…

For those educators who cannot get enough of the DMA this summer, we have many professional development opportunities for you!   With a possibility of earning over sixty CPE credit hours, these sessions are open to K-12 educators across all disciplines and schools.    We hope to see you at one or more of the sessions listed below.

Summer Seminar 2011: Teaching for Creativity
June 14 – 17, 2011, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily
24 CPE Hours; limit fifteen
Registration is due May, 30, 2011

Designed for teachers of all grade levels and subjects, Summer Seminar is an immersive experience in the Dallas Museum of Art’s galleries and Center for Creative Connections.   Conversations, experiences with works of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s galleries, and creative thinking techniques will be used to create an enriching experience for teachers and models for use in the classroom.

North American Wildlife at the Dallas Zoo and in the “Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection” at the Dallas Museum of Art
Friday, July 15, 2011, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
6 CPE hours; limit thirty

Teachers will explore the relationships between American Indian cultures and native North American wildlife.    Participants will closely observe animals at the Dallas Zoo and will study works of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s exhibition Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection.

Museum Forum for Teachers: Modern & Contemporary Art 
July 25- July 29, 2011, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. daily
30 CPE Hours; limited to twenty-five middle and high school teachers; application is due May, 23, 2011

Teachers will deepen their understanding of contemporary art and architecture through gallery experiences and discussions.   Participants will spend each day at one of five area institutions: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, Nasher Sculpture Center, and The Rachofsky House.

Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection   
August 9, 2011, 9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
3.5 CPE hours; limit twenty-five

Explore the belief systems of American Indian cultures through artworks in the Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection exhibition. 

Please note that the Dallas Museum of Art is accredited by the Texas State Board for Educator Certification, and participating educators will earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours during Teacher Workshops, Summer Seminar, and Museum Forum.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

Engaging Opportunities with Art, Artists, and Animals

As the new year begins, I encourage you to think about ways you can connect with with artists, artworks, and other K-12 colleagues  at the Dallas Museum of Art.  Here are two events that might prove to be inspirational, relaxing, or simply rejuvenating.

  • Join us for our annual Late Night Birthday Celebration as the Museum turns 108 on Friday, January 21 from 6:00 p.m. to midnight!   To celebrate the beginning of the Spring Semester, we invite you to bring your educator ID to receive FREE Museum admission.  Come with your colleagues, family, and friends to experience traditional African music, polka with Brave Combo, participate in Twitter Treasure Hunts, and engage in conversations with artists in the Center for Creative Connections.  In addition, visit the Educator Resource Table from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. to meet DMA education staff, register for door prizes, and sign up for upcoming teacher programs.     


  • Join us for an exciting teacher workshop Animals from Africa at the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Museum of Art on Saturday, January 29!  Spend the morning at the Dallas Museum of Art, experiencing African Masks: The Art of Disguise and then journey to the Dallas Zoo for an afternoon of exploration in the Giants of the Savanna!  This special workshop includes a gallery tour, a special behind-the-scenes experience at the zoo, and lessons from experienced art and zoo educators that you can take back to your classroom.  Participants will also receive six CPE hours.  Cost is $50 for this workshop and includes admission and parking at both institutions.  To register, please complete the registration form and return to the Dallas Zoo Education Department via fax, email, or mail.

We look forward to seeing you at one or more of these events!   Don’t forget, bring your educator ID on  Thursday evenings to receive FREE admission to the Museum.

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers   

September Programs for Teachers

I hope you had a fun and relaxing summer break!   The school year has just begun, and we are looking forward to seeing you and your students here at the Museum.  This will be an exceptional year for exhibitions as we celebrate Mexico’s bicentennial, investigate the meanings and functions of masks from several Sub-Saharan African countries, and explore French medieval sculptures from the tomb of John the Fearless.

Because we value you as educators, we are offering FREE admission with your educator ID on the following days this month:  September 4, 5, 25, and 26.   Below are additional opportunities to participate in programming designed for K-12 educators during September:


Arts of Mexico Teacher Workshop
Saturday, September 11, 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Explore the arts of Mexico in the Museum’s collections and the historical significance of artworks and artists in the exhibitions José Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism and Tierra y Gente: Modern Mexican Works on Paper


Late Night at the Dallas Museum of Art
Friday, September 17, 6:00 p.m. – midnight

Show your educator ID and get in FREE.  Visit the Educator Resource table to register for door prizes and sign up for upcoming teacher programs.


African Masks: The Art of Disguise Teacher Workshop
Saturday, September 25, 9:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Experience the power and wonder of African Masks: The Art of Disguise. Investigate the functions and meanings of African masks and consider how they are used today. 

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Upcoming Summer Teacher Programs!

Congratulations to all teachers for the completion of another school year!   My colleagues and I would like to invite you to join us  for great learning experiences with works of art this summer.  Below are a few opportunities for you to engage with Museum education staff and educators from around the DFW area, and, of course, explore works of art from all times, places, and cultures.

Summer Seminar:  Exploring the Creative Process
Tuesday, June 15 – Friday, 18, 201
9:00 – 4:00 daily
$100 registration fee

Explore both the theory and practice of creativity in sessions led by Dr. Magdalena Grohman from The University of Texas at Dallas and DMA staff.    Sessions will include gallery experiences in the Museum’s collections and Center for Creative Connections, creative thinking workshops, and discussions about classroom applications.

Visit the website for more details and to register


Museum Forum for Teachers: Modern & Contemporary Art Monday, July 19 – Friday, July 23, 2010
10:00 – 4:00 daily  
$250 includes all instruction, materials, and lunch each day
The Museum Forum is a week-long summer program for middle school and high school teachers of all disciplines.  Participants will spend each day at one of five Dallas–Fort Worth institutions: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Kimbell Art Museum, Dallas Museum of Art Nasher Sculpture Center, and The Rachofsky House.

The application deadline has been extended until July 1.

Teacher Workshop with artist
Jill Foley
Wednesday, August 11, 2010  
Details coming soon at

Join DMA staff and visiting artist, Jill Foley, for an interactive workshop filled with imagination and creativity.   Foley, a Dallas-based artist, describes her work as her consciousness turned tangible.  She creates large scale imaginary-type spaces to host her puppet-like figural sculptures and her paintings and drawings.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Programs and Resources for Teachers

The Tip of the Iceberg

One of the most popular works of art in the Dallas Museum of Art’s collection is Frederic Edwin Church’s The IcebergsAlthough there are many reasons to treasure this painting, I love the connections with science and history. 

Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826 - 1900), The Icebergs, 1861, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt, 1979.28

With an interest in the 1845 Franklin Expedition to find the Northwest Passage, Frederic Church and his friend Reverend Louis Noble set sail during the summer of 1859 on a month-long journey to Newfoundland and Labrador.  Church’s romantic notion of exploring new frontiers and recording the untamed natural world resulted in multiple sketches of icebergs.   Reverend Noble documented their experiences and published the book After Icebergs with a Painter: A Summer Voyage to Labrador and Around Newfoundland in 1861.

 Two things are evident to the observer: an iceberg is as solid as ivory or marble, and cold apparently as any substance on the earth.  This compact and perfectly frozen body, in the warm seas of summer, finds its entire outside exposed to the July sun.  The expanding power of heat becomes at length an explosive force, and throws off, with all the violence and suddenness of gunpowder, portions of the surface.  If you hear thunders, come to the iceberg then.        – Reverend Louis Noble, 1861

I can understand and appreciate their fascination with icebergs.   Here are  a few facts about these fresh water formations in the North Atlantic:

  • Approximately 40,000 medium-to-large sized icebergs annually calve, or break, off glaciers in Greenland; 400-800 icebergs make it as far south as Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
  • The age of the ice may be more than 10,000 years old. 
  • The average size is between three and 250 feet above sea level with an approximate weight of 100,000 to 200,000 tons (the weight of 20,000 school buses). 
  • About 7/8 of the iceberg’s mass is below the water.
  • The bluish streaks in the ice are from the refreezing of melted water without air bubbles.
  • Icebergs often tip over and roll as the ice unevenly melts.
  • Depending on the size, icebergs can “ground” or contact the seabed and get stuck.   

When you come to the Museum, I encourage you to wander up to the 4th floor to see this work of art.  Consider the awe and wonder of these natural formations that were observed on the North Atlantic waters.   You might want to bring a jacket or sweater in case you need to keep warm on your adventure!

Until next time….

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Learning Partnerships with Schools

For more information about The Icebergs and its history, read The Voyage of the Icebergs:  Frederic Church’s Arctic Masterpiece written by past DMA curator, Eleanor Jones Harvey.

Here Come the Withers Wildcats!

If you were to wander through the African galleries today or tomorrow, you might encounter a studious group of 5th graders and their teachers from Harry C. Withers elementary.  Clustered around works of art, the students will be sketching and talking about what they see, think, and feel in response to the art.  When looking at the Stool supported by kneeling female figure from the Luba peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the discussion may range in topic from the geometry and patterns they see to ideas about beauty and the significant role of women in the Luba culture to the king who sat on this stool.

Math teacher Debbie Hurley will likely be leading this discussion.  With a team of teachers, Debbie and the Withers 5th grade students have visited the DMA every year for the last 15 years!   I’ve seen her teach with the Stool many times in the galleries and learned much from her passionate approach to teaching and her ability to help students make connections between the art and their lives.   In 1995, Debbie was among a group of Dallas ISD teachers and DMA education staff who collaborated to create a teacher-led curriculum called “African Traditions” for the Museum’s Art of Looking school partnership program.  The Art of Looking partnership program is 17 years old this year.  A program for 4th – 6th grade students and teachers, the Art of Looking champions interdisciplinary approaches to works of art, guides students through deep looking experiences with art that help build creative and critical thinking skills, and fosters a connection between Dallas ISD schools and their hometown Museum.

The Art of Looking partnership program, more so the “African Traditions” experience, is so embedded in the Withers school culture that it defines what it means to be a 5th grader at Withers, and what it means to be a parent of a 5th grader (who come often as chaperones on Museum visits).

This week the Withers Wildcats make their 15th annual visit to the Museum and it will be an extra special one.  Following their Friday session in the galleries looking at art, students will join African drummer Leo Hassan for a hands-on experience with African drums.   I’ll be sure to post pictures late Friday – so come back for a look!

Nicole Stutzman
Director of Learning Partnerships with Schools and the Community

Literary Connections to the DMA Collection

Back in October, I blogged about the Beat Generation and Abstract Expressionism.  Since then, I have continued to explore connections between great works of literature and works of art in the DMA collection.  The number of literary connections in our collection is amazing, and I’m excited to share some of them with you.

For example, did you know that the characters of Dick and Nicole Diver in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night were inspired by the artist Gerald Murphy and his wife Sara?  Fitzgerald even dedicated the novel to them: “To Gerald and Sara–Many fêtes.”  Gerald and Sara Murphy were Americans who made their home on the French Riviera, which is where Part I of Tender is the Night takes place.  The Murphys were also great friends with authors like Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway and with artists like Pablo Picasso and Fernand Léger.  The DMA owns two paintings by Gerald Murphy: Watch and Razor.  These are two of only seven paintings by Murphy still known to exist today. 

Gerald and Sara Murphy

Connections can also be made between works of art in our European galleries and literature from Antiquity.  Jacques-Louis David’s Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe shows a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  Niobe was a woman who boasted about how wonderful her fourteen children were.  The goddess Latona was offended by this and sent her own children–Apollo and Diana–to murder Niobe’s sons and daughters.  David fills his canvas with the attack, and we see thirteen of Niobe’s children lying murdered on the ground (Niobe’s youngest daughter is still alive, shielded by her mother’s cloak).  Ovid’s description of the deaths, especially of Niobe’s sons, are so precise that you can identify which male figure is which son based on the wounds David has included. 

Jacques-Louis David, Apollo and Diana Attacking the Children of Niobe, 1772

My favorite literary connection is between Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s Ugolino and His Children and Dante’s Inferno.  Count Ugolino resides in the lowest circle of Hell.  During his lifetime, Ugolino was jailed for treachery and was locked away with nothing to eat.  Eventually, his sons and grandsons began to die, and they pleaded with Ugolino to eat their flesh so he would stay nourished.  Carpeaux’s sculpture shows Ugolino gnawing at his own fingers, and we get a sense of the agony he must be feeling as he tries to decide whether or not to devour his own family members.  

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Ugolino and His Children, 1860 (cast c. 1871)

If you love literature and the Dallas Museum of Art as much as I do, you should attend the Late Night celebration on January 15th.  Arts and Letters Live will kick off their 2010 season with a “Literary Deathmatch.”  Four authors representing different Texas cities  will compete to be named the Literary Deathmatch Champion.  It sounds like an event not to be missed!

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator 

The Beat Goes On

A few weeks ago, I gave a Gallery Talk at the DMA that made connections between Abstract Expressionism and the Beat Generation.  I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Art History as well as English, so I am always looking for ways to make literary connections in our galleries.  Jackson Pollock’s Cathedral is one of my favorite paintings in our collection, and it provides the perfect comparison for the writings of the Beat Generation. 

The Beats believe in spontaneity and writing what is on your mind—an “undisturbed flow,” as Jack Kerouac called it.  Part I of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, an iconic work of Beat literature, is one long run-on sentence.  Ginsberg uses commas and semicolons to punctuate stanzas, but a period does not appear until the very end of Part I.  The Beats also felt that an author should write in the moment and shouldn’t worry about grammar or punctuation (see Jack Kerouac’s The Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, 1959).  Kerouac’s first draft of On the Road was written over the course of three weeks, and in the end looked like one massive paragraph.  He didn’t think about punctuation or line breaks—he just let his words flow.  

So what does all of this have to do with Jackson Pollock?  Just as the Beats were letting words and ideas spontaneously stream onto paper, Jackson Pollock allowed paint to flow from his brush onto canvas.  His gestures draw our eye across—and right up to the edges—of the canvas, and we can imagine how he moved his arm and body through the picture plane.  There is a fantastic quote from Pollock that really illustrates just how similar his technique was with the Beat philosophy of writing: 

“When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing.  It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about.  I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own.  I try to let it come through.  It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess.  Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.” ~Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1947-1948.

Pollock painted “in the moment,” and his lines and gestures come together to create one unified masterpiece.  It’s also interesting to note another link between Pollock and the Beats–Cathedral was titled by another Beat poet: Frank O’Hara.  O’Hara described the painting in this way: “Cathedral is brilliant, clear, incisive, public—its brightness and its linear speed protect and signify, like the façade of a religious edifice…”
 I’m looking forward to continuing to explore interdisciplinary (especially literary) connections in the DMA’s collection and sharing these connections with our docents—and with student groups.  Are there other interdisciplinary connections that you make in your classrooms using the DMA’s collection?  If so, I would love to hear about them!       


Shannon Karol                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Tour Coordinator


Flickr Photo Stream